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Keeping the faith: Milners spread God's word with second Christian bookstore

When they opened the doors of Faithful Expressions in Fargo last August, Joe and LuAnn Milner weren't just expanding a business. They were spreading God's word.

When they opened the doors of Faithful Expressions in Fargo last August, Joe and LuAnn Milner weren't just expanding a business. They were spreading God's word.

Everything in the store, from CDs to wall hangings and jewelry, features Bible verses or biblical themes.

"It's our way of making the Great Commission happen," Joe says. "I believe in my heart this isn't a business, it's a ministry."

Faithful Expressions is the community's fifth Christian store and the Milners' second. They opened their first store five years ago in Detroit Lakes, Minn., where they live.

Watching Fargo's growth to the south, the Milners felt the community could support another Christian bookstore. So when space opened in First Center South Mall, at the intersection of 25th Street and 32nd Avenue South, they felt like God was giving them permission to open a second store.


"It's worked out well," Joe says. "We think we complement the other stores. We're not in competition. We're all trying to get the word of God out."

One big family

That's a sentiment shared by other managers and owners of Christian book and gift stores in Fargo and Moorhead. Selling Christian goods is as much of a vocation as being a teacher, a preacher or a musician, they say.

Karl Bakkum of Melberg Christian Books and Gifts in Moorhead considers large chains like Wal-Mart or Sam's Club more as competition than other Christian bookstores.

"But the difference (between large discount stores and us) is we can suggest a book to read if your friend has just been diagnosed with cancer," he says. "If you encounter a customer with a specific need and you can offer him an appropriate book, that's our calling."

Each store has a niche and, more often than not, the stores will cooperate by referring customers to another business if their own store doesn't have the product.

"I think we're all about serving the Lord and the community," says Michael Franklin, manager of Family Christian Stores in West Acres Mall.

Newest on the block


For its specialty, Faithful Expressions has chosen to focus on gift selections and personal items like ceramics, wall hangings and photo frames. It also offers an interactive computer program that allows customers to search for books and musical selections by name, author, topic or by sight. Book and album covers, as well as musical clips, are scanned into the program.

"I could spend all day here," says LuAnn. "It's like what it says in Deuteronomy: Surround yourself with the things of God. That's what inspires me to do this."

Joe has a business administration background and enjoys selling; LuAnn is an accountant and keeps track of orders. In addition to their two stores, the couple also run the main retail center at Spirit Fest Midwest, the annual Christian music festival at Soo Pass Ranch near Detroit Lakes.

They are members at Zion Lutheran and Detroit Lakes. But running the stores has given them a new dimension to their relationship with God, they say.

"I've considered myself a Christian since I was baptized but now I've discovered being a Christian is fun," Joe says.

"We want people to think of this as a sanctuary -- a place to come to relax and unwind."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erin Hemme Froslie at (701) 241-5534

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